The microwave beeps signaling my dinner is ready just as my cell phone buzzes. Damn it.
It’s late. Just after midnight. I’m starving and exhausted and only got home twenty minutes ago. I just want to eat something and go to bed.
My phone is still chiming annoyingly and vibrating across the counter.
I would ignore it but the name on the screen is my boss.
I accept the call, tucking my cell between my shoulder and my ear and grab my burrito. “Melrose.”
“Just got a call about a possible double homicide. You’re up. Dixon will meet you there.”
“No need. I’ve got it.”
“You need a partner.”
“I’m fine, Captain.”
“Stuff it. Dixon will meet you on site. Montrose Harbor.” He disconnects before I can argue.
Fuck. The last thing I need is someone watching my every move. The Captain knows I prefer to work alone but some new brass has been making waves about protocols.
And considering the number of rules I’ve broken through the years I’m at the top of their internal ‘keep an eye on this guy’ list.
So now, not only does it look like I’m getting a partner, I’m getting a new partner. Dixon was just promoted into our department a month ago. She’s green which likely means she’s going to care a lot about rules and protocols.
Juggling the burrito, I put my jacket back on between bites and walk back out the door.
As promised Detective Dixon is waiting at the Harbor at the docks entrance. She snaps to attention when she sees me approaching, reaching out her hand to shake mine and introduces herself.
“We met last month -”
I cut her off. “I remember. Catch me up. What do you know?”
“Two deceased. Male, 30s, shot execution style in the head. Woman, two shots to the chest. Shots were reported just after 11:30pm by a couple living on their yacht a few berths down.”
Dixon continues, ignoring my remark, as we walk down the dock. “Haven’t found any witnesses reporting anything unusual but officers are canvassing the Harbor for anyone else who lives on site.”
“Do we have an ID?” I pause as we reach the yacht housing our crime scene, studying the exterior.
She refers to her notes. “Boat is registered to Mr. Preston Sinclair. Driver’s License on the male vic has the same name.”
I glance at her sharply, suddenly feeling like I need to vomit. “Preston Sinclair? You’re sure?” I demand.
She shrugs. “I mean, as sure as we can be at this point.”
I can’t breath as I force the next question out. “The woman?”
“Unknown. We haven’t found a purse or wallet with any identification for her yet.”
I stare at the gangplank, willing myself to move forward but my feet stay anchored to the dock. I know what I’m going to find on that yacht and I want to delay that knowledge as long as possible. Memories torture me, scenes of teasing blue eyes and wavy blond hair, and softly tanned skin. How unapologetically she relished life. Her unrestrained enjoyment of dancing. Her bold laughter.
“Melrose?” Dixon is half way up the gangplank looking at me expectantly.
My jaw clenched with fear, I follow.
I move through the scene, trying to observe everything with my trained detective’s eye but I’m distracted by the dread at the edges of my mind. There was clearly a struggle. Several of the rooms have overturned furniture. The door to the master bedroom looks like it was kicked in. I recognize the uniformed police officer outside and nod a grim greeting.
“Where’s the male vic?”
He points down the hall to the front of the boat and Dixon and I move that direction.
Part of me is still hoping it’s a mistake. That Sinclair loaned his boat to a friend who wanted to impress his date. That I’m not going to know the person I find.
But I do.
His face is bloody and disfigured but it’s enough for me to be sure. I force myself to compartmentalize and crouch near the body, studying the scene carefully for several minutes. Standing, I turn and find Dixon. “It’s him,” I confirm. It’s Sinclair.”
She’s studying me almost as carefully. “You know him?”
“Yeah.” Glancing again at the body on the floor I brace myself for the next part. “Yeah. I know him. Where’s the woman?”
“Back in the bedroom.”
My feet are heavy, all the sounds around me muffled as I force myself back down the hall.
Teasing blue eyes.
Brilliant wide smile.
I might actually throw up.
I pause once more before entering, delaying the inevitable as long as possible.
At first I only see a pair of bare feet with red toe nails sticking out from behind the bed. In slow motion I move around the foot of the bed, the roar in my head canceling out any other sound. The woman was naked. The first cops on the scene had thrown a sheet over her as cover. A meaningless gesture to respect her privacy but one I appreciate.
Red toe nails.
Teasing blue eyes.
I crouch down next to her and slowly lift the sheet to reveal her face.
Glancing at her face I exhale in relief. I sway, unsteady, and catch myself just before I touch anything else.
It’s not her. I don’t know this woman.
It’s not Blake.
When I’m sure none of what I’m feeling is reflected on my face I release the sheet and stand, once again finding Dixon waiting.
“Any sign of the gun?”
She shakes her head. “We can get divers out in the morning. Maybe we’ll be lucky and he just ditched it overboard.”
I nod, approving this plan.
I instruct the CSI team to bag the victims hands. “They fought back. See if we can find any DNA under their nails.”
Dixon and I return to the dock, leaving the team to continue collecting evidence.
“Preston Sinclair was an actor. He’s in a play downtown right now. I know the director. We’ll meet with her in the morning and see what she can tell us. Hopefully she’ll recognize the woman. Let’s also get a warrant to search Sinclair’s apartment and the theatre.”
Dixon nods and we make a plan to meet up in the morning, a few short hours from now.
A few short hours to grab some sleep before getting back to work.
But when I drive away from the harbor, I don’t head home.
I go to her.
I go to Blake.
Dylan first appears in Lucas and Ash’s story, here.